Smackdown – April 17, 2003

Date: April 17, 2003
Location: Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s tournament night as we have the finals to crown a new #1 contender. John Cena will be facing Chris Benoit, which is pretty much the best final they could have gone for. Cena should be the favorite after having spent weeks taunting Lesnar but Benoit is one of those cases where it’s easy to see him pulling it off. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of the tournament, which hasn’t been too bad so far. I’m not sure if it’s worthy of the music video treatment though.

Opening sequence.

Big Show/A-Train vs. Rey Mysterio/Tajiri

Assuming this is going to see the small guys crushed up and sprinkled on the monsters’ pizza, beating the champions last week would be rather pointless. Mysterio slugs away at A-Train to start and gets thrown into the corner for his efforts. A basement dropkick gives Rey a breather though and it’s off to Tajiri for a kick of his own. A-Train shoves them down but it’s a double dropkick to stagger him again. Big Show breaks up the 619 though and the order of the universe is restored.

Show launches Rey into the corner and it’s time for the slow motion beatdown. A pair of backbreakers has Rey in more trouble and A-Train follows up with the modified Gory Stretch. Rey gets in a tornado DDT for the breather though, setting up the hot tag to Tajiri. The handspring elbow barely connects but a springboard kick to the face gets two. Show casually throws Rey outside though, leaving A-Train to kick Tajiri in the head for the pin.

Rating: C. Questionable booking aside, this wasn’t a bad match with the smaller guys getting in some nice shots before going down. Big Show and A-Train are fine for a pair of heavies but they need something to do. Rey and Tajiri could be a perfectly fine tag team, though this isn’t the best way to help set them up.

Post match A-Train takes the mist and Rey 619s Big Show around the post. That’s REALLY not cool with Big Show. After the break, Show rants about being embarrassed so he wants to face Rey at Backlash.

Here’s Brock Lesnar for his first talk as champion. Interviewer Michael Cole goes over the shooting star and Lesnar says he was lucky to survive that. It took him five months to win the title back and he knew he had to do whatever it took. Kurt Angle is the first person to kick out of the F5 so Brock had to do something special. He had a concussion but there’s no doubt that he would do it all again. Brock talks about his respect for Angle but here’s Cena to cut him off. Where is the respect for Cena? Brock is just a white boy up in here lying to the fans.

Cena gets all fired up talking about how he’s bigger than Lesnar and the title, only to be cut off by Chris Benoit. Chris talks about how Cena has to show some respect because no one is bigger than the title. Brock calls Benoit out for not respecting him and they go nose to nose, only to have Cena demand respect from them both. Eventually Brock says they should all respect the winner of the tournament but Cena gets in a cheap shot on Benoit.

Mr. America is coming. Oh boy here we go.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Jamie Noble

Hang on as here’s Team Angle to mock Los Guerreros, who are now #1 contenders. So yeah, the Rey/Tajiri match means nothing at all. Charlie says Grandma Guerrero is the best housekeeper that money can buy, which is enough of a distraction for Noble to get in some cheap shots to start. A swinging neckbreaker gives Jamie two but an uppercut sets up Three Amigos. Eddie’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker gets two and it’s Chavo taking care of Nidia so Eddie can frog splash Jamie for the pin.

Eddie and Chavo make gay jokes about Team Angle and win a quick brawl.

The French guys are coming. Tazz makes a joke about all the ethnic acts at the moment and he’s got a point.

Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio is official for Backlash.

We recap the FBI vs. Undertaker/Nathan Jones. They really think there’s something to the FBI? Really? Johnny gorilla pressing Rikishi should have gotten him something but that hasn’t been mentioned since.

Undertaker is going to be out a few weeks due to elbow surgery.

Earlier today, Jones nearly murdered Nunzio but settled for beating up the rest of the team instead.

Torrie is stretching when Sable comes in. She liked seeing Torrie get out of the shower last week but this time she needs help undoing her zipper. Sable unzips herself and takes her top down because she has nowhere to change. Torrie leaves though and Sable has to cover herself with her hands. Well at least they’re not hiding what they’re going for here, but we’ve covered this with Dawn Marie and it’s already been made clear that we’ve seen all we’re going to see. It doesn’t have the same effect twice in a four month stretch.

Long recap of the Hogan/Vince/Piper ordeal.

Rikishi vs. Sean O’Haire is confirmed for Backlash.

It’s time for Piper’s Pit and that could mean anything. Piper gives a rambling rant against fans on the internet, saying fans are coming out of the closet to beat people up but he likes it. We see the Snuka coconut thing from twenty years ago, followed by the same thing happening to Rikishi last week. Anyway, Piper has been looking for the modern wrestler with intelligence so here’s the champion of champions: Sean O’Haire.

Sean comes out and praises Piper, who might be even more evil than O’Haire is. Before Piper can say anything though, here’s Jimmy Snuka to send Piper through the roof. Piper sucks up to him but Jimmy says we have a problem here. Sean is ready to fight but Piper says he doesn’t need food or water because he’s self-contained.

Piper wants to bury the coconut, only to have Snuka hit him in the head. O’Haire gets involved as well but it’s Rikishi out for the save. A chair to the back drops Rikishi though and the bad guys bail. That’s enough for Rikishi to challenge Piper for next week while Snuka’s eyes are bulging as only his can. I like the idea of pushing O’Haire but this is getting very high on the list of most overbooked angles that are likely to collapse underneath their own weight.

Torrie did a Playboy signing in New York earlier this week. They’re pushing the heck out of that thing as only WWE can do.

Torrie Wilson vs. Nidia

Torrie’s gear has the Playboy logo prominently displayed. Hang on a minute though as here’s Sable to referee. Torrie and Sable stare at each other so Nidia can jump Torrie from behind. That goes nowhere so Nidia throws her into the corner, only to get caught in the headscissors solely designed for a certain angle of Torrie’s shorts. A high crossbody and basement dropkick give Torrie two but hang on as Sable has to dropkick Noble to the floor. Nidia gets caught in a tornado DDT for the fast pin.

Sable gives Torrie one of those looks.

Cruiserweight Title: Matt Hardy vs. Brian Kendrick

Matt, who really digs his book and whose favorite sushi is freshwater eel, is defending. Brian goes with a fast backslide to start and takes out Shannon Moore with a suicide dive for good measure. Back in and Matt throws him off the top though and Brian is in early trouble. Kendrick gets caught in a full nelson but he climbs the ropes and spins around to drive Matt’s head into the mat for a really cool counter. An enziguri gets two, followed by a to rope elbow for the same. Sliced Bread #2 is countered though and the Twist of Fate retains Matt’s title.

Rating: C+. Kendrick has been showing up almost everyone on this show week to week and this was no exception. It wasn’t a great match but for something that barely broke three minutes and saw Kendrick hitting some good looking stuff and barely stopping, it was quite the entertaining match. Now can we put him over someone other that Moore for a change?

The FBI is ready for revenge on Nathan Jones.

The APA went to Washington DC to visit soldiers.

Nathan Jones vs. Nunzio

Jones kicks him down and chokes a bit until the FBI comes in after less than a minute.

The Italians beat him down and crush the ankle with the steps to send Jones down to Louisville.

Mr. America is still coming. Nothing has changed in the last hour and a half.

#1 Contenders Tournament Finals: John Cena vs. Chris Benoit

Before the match, Cena says Benoit can rent the space beneath his teeth and calls him a Dynamite ripoff. Benoit takes him down to start and works on the arm for a bit. Cena is smart enough to shove the referee and nail a low blow. We hit the early chinlock for a bit before Cena reverses the first German suplex into a victory roll for a near fall. The threat of a Crossface sends Cena bailing to the floor so Benoit dives through the ropes to take him down again.

We take a break and come back with Benoit working on the arm again. Cena grabs the yet to be named Throwback for a quick two before we hit the neck crank (with their backs to the camera because they don’t know how to work). Benoit gets thrown hard into the corner but manages to suplex his way out of a chinlock.

Back up and Benoit elbows him in the face, only to get caught in something like a reverse Blue Thunder Bomb (Benoit landed at the side instead of between the legs for two. That just earns Cena the Crossface, though he’s too close to the ropes. Benoit slips out of the Death Valley Driver and tries a sunset flip but Cena drops down into a cradle for the clean pin.

Rating: B-. You have to give Cena the clean win here to make him look like a bigger threat against Lesnar, especially after the mess of the match against Undertaker last week. Benoit controlled it for the most part but Cena got in enough offense that it didn’t look like a fluke. That’s the value of someone like Benoit, who can make Cena look good but doesn’t really lose much in defeat. Good match too.

Overall Rating: C-. The main event is easily the best thing about the show but the big stories are major issues at this point. Cena vs. Lesnar is third on the show with the way overdone Piper’s Pit stuff (assuming you don’t count that as a separate story from Hogan vs. Vince) and Sable/Torrie above it. I can understand the World Title not being the biggest story on the show but sweet goodness it would be nice if one of the bigger stories was even slightly interesting.

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